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N.J.: Poll Shows Menendez Leading Kean

Soon-to-be Sen. Bob Menendez (D) leads state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R) by six points in the 2006 Senate race, according to a new Quinnipiac poll that's the first survey to be released on the budding race since New Jersey Gov.-elect Jon Corzine (D) announced the Menendez appointment last week.

Menendez holds a 44 percent to 38 percent edge over Kean -- the son of the popular former governor. Neither candidate is particularly well known statewide.  Fifty-six percent of respondents said they did not know enough about Menendez to form an opinion; Kean was unknown by 61 percent.  Those voters who did recognize the candidates felt generally favorable about them.  Menendez had a 22 percent to 10 percent favorable/unfavorable score while Kean had a similar 20/8 rating.

The two parties viewed the results through very different lenses.

Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called the survey the "latest sign that the GOP's effort to hype Tom Kean, Jr.'s candidacy is just that -- hype."

Dan Ronayne of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that survey shows "Tom Kean is in a great position to win this election." He added: "Corzine obviously thought twice about this pick, he maybe should have spent more time on it." 

By roughly a two-to-one margin, those tested also approved of Corzine's choice of Menendez, who will become the first Latino senator from New Jersey when he is formally sworn in next month.  Not surprisingly, Democrats approved of the pick by a 67 percent to 11 percent margin, and independents favored it 50 percent to 26 percent.  Republicans disapproved of the pick by a 42 percent to 32 percent margin.

The positive feelings Democrats have about Menendez's selection were not entirely reflected when that same group was asked whether he should seek a full-six year term in 2006.  Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said he should, 25 percent said either no or they preferred another candidate. Thirty-seven percent didn't know or didn't answer.

While those comparatively low numbers for Menendez are likely the result of his low name identification statewide, they may influence the decision-making of Reps. Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone, both of whom are weighing challenges to Menendez in next June's Democratic primary.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 15, 2005; 3:26 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 21, 2005 2:05 AM | Report abuse

The only reason the Republicans are pushing Tom Kean, Jr, is that they couldn't find a candidate named Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Buxtehude | December 19, 2005 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans nominating Kean for Senator will have the same result as the Democrats nominating Hillary for president: Party suicide.

The NJ GOP has not recovered from falling on its sword by refusing to support Bret Schundler four years ago. Tom Kean is a nice guy but no political powerhouse.

As far as name recognition goes, Kean lost the Congressional primary to an unknown Mike Fergusson.

The national GOP better keep up candidate recruiting rather than lining up all the chips behind Kean.

Posted by: Steve Palmer | December 19, 2005 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Merna's tin foil hat is messing things up.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 16, 2005 8:08 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Marve | December 16, 2005 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Way way too early for a poll this early. Validity is found in the name recognition. So I would not put too much stake in this first one.

Posted by: db | December 15, 2005 11:19 PM | Report abuse

This relatively close poll should trouble Menendez. Corzine won the seat in 2000 because he was viewed as an ousider, even though he's extremely wealthy. Here, Menendez could be caste as North Jersey partisan who will not adequately represent the whole state. Voters in central and southern NJ especially. Corzine, won the govenor's race with 2/3 of the Hispanic Latino vote and over 90 % of ther African American vote. Yet, no AA candidate was given serious consideration for Corzine's seat because AA's are unelectable statewide, even in a Democratic leaning state like NJ. So, why would the AA electorate reward Menendez and further marginalize their clout ?

Tom Kean Jr also has a lot of positives- he seems moderate, which New Jersians typically like, and he cannot be linked to the President's negatives- like Doug Forrester in the govenor's race. The Iraq question will come to some pivot point in a year. Either, we succeed and leave or the back lash grows further and we leave. Further, Kean's dad Chaired the 911 which was critical-and remains critical of the current administration. So, the Kean Jr could avoid guilt by association as a Republican in a year's time. Any way you look at it Tom Kean Jr has some cards to play.

Posted by: jacade | December 15, 2005 10:24 PM | Report abuse

sure we in jersey lean left. that is a tough challenge for any gop'er, for sure. i agree that the 2006 race is for menendez to lose, but it all depends on how the courtship phase goes here in jersey. i hope he rises to the challenge and is a shoo in next november. hopefully he'll do a good job,
i have a vested interest in his success.
p.s. i betcha there is no such bruising dem primary. andrews and pallone are pretty much broke, right?
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Posted by: jay lassiter | December 15, 2005 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Barring a crippling primary, this seat is Menendez' to lose. Even Republicans only disapprove of his appointment by 12 points?? This race shouldn't even be on your top 10 list, at least not after the nomination. NJ hasn't elected a Republican senator since the 70s I don't think. Tom Kean, Jr. (whose district I used to live in) can't overcome the strong Democratic lean of this state or election cycle.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 15, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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